Unplugged Weddings: Is this thing plugged in?

In 2013 I attended my first wedding as a guest since I started working as a wedding photographer. Every 5 minutes I found myself in a panic and reaching for my camera. But it wasn’t there! It was weird. Much to the surprise of other guests, I didn’t take my camera with me. And it proved to be incredibly liberating. Though I had experienced the ‘unplugged wedding’ as a photographer, I hadn’t yet experienced it as a guest. This wedding totally convinced me that it’s the way to go for a couple reasons.

First, the couple had hired a very competent wedding photographer. And second, it is much easier to get engaged in a loved one’s wedding without a camera in front of your face. Even so, deciding to commit to an unplugged wedding is a personal decision which deserves careful consideration.

Should You Have An Unplugged Wedding?

There are plenty of reasons to ask your guests to leave their cameras at the door. However, there are also some convincing arguments to encourage your snap-happy family and friends. With this in mind, ask yourself these questions to decide whether to go unplugged or to plug in.

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This was Tom’s face when he first saw his bride Amy! You can see their wedding here.

Are you hiring a professional?

By “professional” I mean someone who makes a living as a photographer. If you are not hiring a professional you can have your bases covered with guest photos. However, your professional photographer will capture the important moments. By hiring someone you trust you can feel comfortable asking your guests to leave their cameras at home.


In some cases totally nerding out with your smartphone can make a charming addition to a wedding. A few of my clients have claimed their own wedding hashtags and encouraged all of their family and friends to share their snaps. You can follow your family and friends’ shenanigans from planning, to the bachelorette, to the morning-after brunch. This can be a lot of fun! As it is physically impossible to be in two places at once, you’ll can catch some moments that you missed.

However, be sure to prioritize! Remember that those Instagram photos will probably live only on Instagram. It is reasonable to welcome your guests to take photos, but to ask them to remain seated during the ceremony. This will allow the professional to document the big moments unobstructed or distracted.

Do you want your friends and family engaged in the ceremony?

Wedding guests often become the bane of our (photographers’ and videographers’) existence. It is a common complaint that they ruin what would otherwise be beautiful shots. This is due to their cameras’ incessant flashing and by standing directly between us and the beautiful moment unfolding in front of us. Also, it is not uncommon for people to spend more time staring at the back of their camera than at the bride. Strange, I know. If the answer to this question is yes, ditch the gadgets.

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Do you want them in your photos?

If yes, go unplugged. I often get a little bit claustrophobic with family members standing over my shoulder attempting to replicate the exact photo I’m attempting to create. The funny thing is, I probably need Aunt Doris, who is standing to my left, to be in the photo. You can encourage your family to be a part of the wedding by asking them to put their cameras down.

Are you ever going to see the photos?

I sort through and delete dozens of photos from each wedding I photograph because people aren’t looking in the right direction. Can you guess why? That’s right! Aunt Doris was standing beside me asking Mum and Dad to look at her. The sad truth is you will likely never see her photos. You will, however, see my photographs. It is perfectly reasonable to ask your family not to take photos during your wedding. Instead let your family know that you’ll be sharing photos with them afterward. It is your wedding after all.

How to Unplug: Communicate

The best advice I can give you is to communicate with your guests about your wishes. After all, they are all there to celebrate with you because they love you and want to see you happy. If you have a particular plan, share it in the invitation. Speak with your officiant about your preferences and have her or him make an announcement at the beginning of the ceremony. And as I mentioned above, you can prioritize particular moments of the day and ask your guests to be totally present for the important ones (like the ceremony and first dance) by leaving their cameras in their pockets.

You should also tell your photographer what your photo goals are for the day! If you want professional shots and only professional shots she should have a creative way to ask your family and fiends to put their cameras down if anyone tries to sneak a shot. If you want all of those Instagram hashtags, be clear with your photographer as she will need to be prepared to play photo-ninja and work around the crowd.

The Low Down

What is most important is that you are marrying the one person who makes you the happiest person on the planet. At the end of the day, as you look at each other for the first time as husband and wife, all the other details will seem so insignificant in comparison. And that, love birds, is what this whole celebration is about!

Ask yourself the questions above to determine whether an unplugged wedding is for you. If you’ve hired a professional, and quality photographs are important, then an unplugged wedding is a great idea. It will help keep your family and friends engaged in your ceremony and make it an intimate and focused affair.